SAN DIEGO STATE AZTECS
Coach: Rocky Long
Record: 32-20 (fifth season); 97-89 career (15 seasons)
Last year: 7-6 overall, 5-3 MW
Last bowl: 2014 Poinsettia (L, 17-16 against Navy)
Returning starters: 6 offense, 8 defense, 4 specialists
Story line: As has been a hallmark under Long, the Aztecs should be tenacious on defense (16th nationally in total defense in 2014), along with a strong rushing game. The question, as it has been the last few seasons, is if they can get even above-average quarterback play. Senior Maxwell Smith, a Kentucky transfer, and redshirt freshman Christian Chapman both will play in Sept. 5's opener. Finding playmakers at quarterback and receiver, for that matter, will go a long way.
Star player: Junior running back Donnel Pumphrey (5-foot-9, 180 pounds) is small and speedy, but he's a workhorse, too. He rushed 276 times for a school-record 1,867 yards with 20 TDs as a sophomore, going for 85 yards or more in every game. Far and away the most proven player on the offense, he will get a ton more chances to repeat 2014.
Quotable: "I think our team was disappointed how the season ended last year, and I think they've done a good job in the offseason" — Long on blowing a big early lead at Boise State and losing the bowl game
NOTE: This is the sixth in our series profiling the Mountain West’s football teams (except Boise State). We started with the West Division, going in reverse order of the preseason poll, found here. San Diego State was the West favorite, next up is the Mountain Division.
Previous Mountain West previews